Obama Says Would Move Fast to Take Cuba Off Terrorism Sponsor List 5

Obama(Reuters) – President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to act quickly once he receives a State Department recommendation on whether to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring countries, a remaining obstacle to the restoration of relations between Washington and Havana.

With just days to go before a hemispheric summit in Panama where Obama will come face-to-face with Cuban President Raul Castro, he offered no clear sign of how he was leaning or the timeframe for his decision. He ordered the review immediately after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on Dec. 17.

Obama, in a Reuters interview in early March, said he hoped the United States would be able to open an embassy in Cuba by the time of the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas, and U.S. officials have since said the review was being expedited.

But the lack of a decision so far on taking Cuba off the terrorism blacklist – something Havana has steadfastly demanded – has raised strong doubts about whether the review will be finished in time to make further strides toward normalization before the summit.

“As soon as I get a recommendation, I’ll be in a position to act on it,” Obama said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Obama gave no sense of where the administration is heading on the issue but made clear that his decision would be based not on “whether they engage in repressive or authoritarian activities in their own country” but on the “current activities of the Cuban government” with regard to terrorism.

Cuba was added to the list of terrorism sponsors in 1982, when it was aiding Marxist insurgencies. But it is currently aiding a peace process with Colombia’s left-wing FARC guerrillas.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here, and we are going to continue to make – move forward on it,” Obama said. “Our hope is to be in a position where we can open an embassy there, that we can start having more regular contacts and consultations around a whole host of issues, some of which we have interests in common.”

He added: “What I’m saying is, I’m going to be taking a very close look at what the State Department recommends.”

(Reporting by Eric Walsh and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Ken Wills)

Colombian President Asks US to Release Jailed Terrorist 4

"Ivan Marquez" stands next to a cardboard cutout photo of "Simon Trinidad" (Photo courtesy of EFE)

“Ivan Marquez” stands next to a cardboard cutout photo of “Simon Trinidad” (Photo courtesy of EFE)

‘Colombia asked US to repatriate prominent FARC leader’

by Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Report

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has asked the United States to repatriate “Simon Trinidad,” a FARC leader who is serving 60 years in a US prison, an adviser to ongoing peace talks with the guerrilla group said Monday.

According to former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, the Santos administration asked US Vice-President Joe Biden to see what possibilities exist to repatriate the rebel leader.

Trinidad was convicted in 2007 of conspiring to kidnap three US military contractors, who were held by the FARC between 2003 and 2008.

The FARC has asked for their fellow-rebel’s release since before the peace talks began in November 2012, claiming Trinidad’s release would be an “immense contribution to peace in Colombia.”

The United States at the time turned down the rebel request, saying that “Trinidad committed crimes and will continue to serve his time in jail.”

Simon Trinidad will remain in prison: US

Since then, rebel spokespersons are frequently flanked by a life-size cardboard cutout photo of Trinidad.

Santos’ alleged request to repatriate of the FARC leader appears to be part of a larger effort that also seeks the removal of FARC guerrillas from the United States’ list of extradition requests.

Santos told Spanish newspaper El Pais he would ask Washington to remove FARC members from the extradition list, claiming that “nobody is going to surrender their weapons to go and die in an American prison.”

The Colombian president discussed the ongoing peace talks over the weekend with Bernard Aronson.

The senior US diplomat was appointed Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process by US Secretary of State John Kerry less than two weeks ago and has already met with the government and rebel delegations.

US envoy meets FARC peace talks delegates behind closed doors

The leaked secret meetings have not been confirmed or denied by either the US government or the FARC, deemed a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.

The FARC have been fighting the Colombian state since 1964.

The United States has long played an active part in the conflict and spent billions of dollars in the first decade of this century to support the Colombian state’s military offensive that pushed the rebels to the periphery of the country.

Since the peace talks began, the warring parties have agreed to a rural reform, political participation for the rebels, and the FARC’s abandoning of drug trafficking.

If the negotiators can come to consensus on transitional justice, victim reparation and a truce, the 50-year-old conflict will come to a formal end.

Espías cubanos miran con interés el proceso de paz en Colombia 3

Espia Cubano Coronel Juan Roberto Loforte Osorio

Espia Cubano Coronel Juan Roberto Loforte Osorio

Antonio Maria Delgado, adelgado@elnuevoherald.com

El servicio de inteligencia cubano, que desde hace décadas se ha mantenido muy activo a lo largo de América Latina, ha estado fortaleciendo sus operaciones en Colombia en los últimos años, lo que refleja un mayor interés en el país sudamericano y en los prospectos de una incorporación a la vida política de las organizaciones guerrilleras.

Ex agentes de Inteligencia cubanos que conversaron con el Nuevo Herald dijeron que el “Centro de Inteligencia” que La Habana mantiene en Colombia ha estado creciendo en los últimos tiempos, y que sus operaciones están siendo encabezadas por un veterano coronel que está en vía de cumplir 40 años en el servicio.

“El Centro en Colombia se ha convertido en los últimos años, después de la salida de la presidencia del presidente Uribe, en uno de los más importantes que tiene Cuba en América Latina”, dijo el ex oficial del servicio de inteligencia cubano Enrique García.

“Para Cuba, la consolidación de todo esto que ha hecho [Juan Manuel] Santos, de manera conciente o inconciente, es muy importante”, agregó García, quien estuvo once años en el servicio de Inteligencia de Cuba antes de desertar a finales de los años ochenta.

García se refería al Proceso de Paz emprendido con las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia por la presidente Santos, iniciativa que está siendo llevado a cabo a través de negociaciones en La Habana.

García, quien acaba de terminar el libro Servicios de Inteligencia Cubanos: Testimonio Inédito, dijo que el régimen de los hermanos Castro está muy interesado en que ese proceso tenga éxito, pero no por razones humanitarias.

“Piensan hacer lo mismo en Colombia que lo que hicieron en Venezuela […] Los planes son las de llevar a las FARC a la presidencia, haciendo uso del dinero del narcotráfico, para luego pasar a hacer lo mismo que han hecho en otros países”, dijo.

“Hacer lo mismo”, se refiere a los proceso de consolidación de poder emprendidos en países como Venezuela y Ecuador, donde las instalaciones democráticas fueron desmanteladas para montar regimenes autocráticos.

“El plan es lograr a través de los Acuerdos de Paz, la impunidad que permita que todos los terroristas de las FARC, puedan reinsertarse sin pagar nada por los crímenes que hicieron a la vida política del país, para que después puedan convertirse en senadores, congresistas y alcaldes y aspirar a la presidencia del país”, inisitió García.

Las operaciones de inteligencia cubanas en Colombia buscan brindar soporte a ese proceso, y están siendo encabezadas por el coronel de Inteligencia Juan Roberto Loforte Osorio, alías “Ramón”, quien está acreditado ante las autoridades colombianas como Ministro Consejero.

García dijo que él conoce a Ramón muy bien.

Read more here: Espia

Critics Question Sources for AP Report on Cuba Democracy Program 1





Say sources had political agenda to undermine U.S. policy

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

Critics are raising questions about the Associated Press’s recent report on a U.S. program to foster civil society in Cuba and have accused the news organization of cooperating with sources who have a political agenda against U.S. policy toward the island.

The AP recently reported on the program that sent Spanish-speaking youth to Cuba to help build health and civil society associations, which the news organization described as a “clandestine operation” with the goal of “ginning up rebellion.” Human rights groups involved in the program criticized the report and said it mischaracterized the nature of the civil society projects.

Defenders of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program say the AP has been less than forthright about the sources for its reporting. They also allege that the AP obtained information and documents from longstanding critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba’s communist government.

The anti-Castro website Capitol Hill Cubans alleged that the key source for the AP’s reporting on both the civil society program and a separate project, an attempt to develop a Twitter-like social media service for Cubans, was Fulton Armstrong. Armstrong is a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffer and senior intelligence analyst for Latin America.

Armstrong told the Washington Free Beacon in an email that although the AP contacted him, he was not the main source of information and documents. “The AP’s reports are pretty obviously based on documentary evidence provided by insiders concerned about the regime-change programs,” he said, adding that he was never fully briefed on what he called USAID’s “clandestine, covert operations.”

“Because the SFRC had investigated these scandalously run secret programs during my tenure on the Committee staff, and because my boss (Chairman [John] Kerry) was concerned enough to put a hold on the programs for a while, I was logically among the dozens of people to be called by the AP reporters,” he said.

Armstrong has long raised the ire of U.S. officials and activists advocating a tough line against the Castro regime. Foreign policy officials in the George W. Bush administration attempted to reassign Armstrong from Latin American intelligence after arguing that he was “soft” on threats from Cuba, according to a 2003 report by the New York Times.

Feature continues here:  Critics Question Credibility of AP Sources


Cuba Demands Removal from List of State Sponsors of Terrorism 1

ETA members fire blanks during the Day of the Basque Soldier of 2006

ETA members fire blanks during the Day of the Basque Soldier of 2006

Communist country continues to sponsor terror groups around the world

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

Cuba’s communist government is demanding its removal from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism despite its continued support for regimes that sponsor terrorism worldwide.

Cuba was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982 and remained so in the State Department’s release this week of its most recent country reports on terrorism.

The report noted that Cuba “has long provided safe haven” to members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) separatist group in Spain, as well as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Both are still considered terrorist groups by the United States and European Union but have participated in peace talks in recent years. Cuba also continues to “harbor fugitives wanted in the United States,” the report added.

The report did not mention Cuba’s continued support for terrorism and violent repression directed by the governments of Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Still, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said it should be taken off the list.

“The Foreign Ministry energetically rejects the manipulation of a matter as sensitive as international terrorism by turning it into an instrument of policy against Cuba and it demands that our country be definitively excluded from this spurious, unilateral and arbitrary list,” the government said in a statement.

The State Department responded that it had “no current plans” to remove Cuba from the list.

Cuba has most recently come under scrutiny for its role in advising the Venezuelan military. The communist island has reportedly sent hundreds of military advisers to Venezuela in exchange for about 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

Critics say the current repression of protesters by Venezuela’s government is reminiscent of the “Cuban model.” Trained and well-armed civilian groups known as “Bolivarian Circles” or “colectivos”—akin to the Castros’ “committees to defend the revolution”—are accused of killing several protesters in the last three months. About 40 people total have died in the demonstrations against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

 Article continues here:  Cuban Support to Terrorists


Washington Thanks Havana For Helping Prompt Cuban-Supported Terrorist Group To Free American… 1

Cuba and Norway: Rebels Free American

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia’s FARC rebels on Sunday freed an American they were holding since June, the governments of Cuba and Norway said.

The statement by the Cuban and Norwegian embassies in Bogota said that rebels have turned over 26-year-old Kevin Scott Sutay to a commission made up of representatives from their countries and the International Committee of the Red Cross in the nation’s south. Sutay was later delivered to U.S. government representatives at the airport in the Colombian capital.

Sutay had been in the country as a tourist when he was taken hostage on June 20 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed Sutay’s release, and said the United States was “profoundly grateful” to the Colombian government for its efforts to secure his freedom.

Kerry also individually thanked Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the governments of Norway and Cuba, as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, for pushing for Sutay’s release.

Editor’s Note: Former CIA officer Brian Latell has stated that Cuban Intelligence has strongly supported the FARC since the 1960s, but the “availability of massive amounts of Venezuelan money” during Hugo Chavez’s presidency triggered considerable growth in the depth and bredth of Havana’s support. His assessment is echoed by Lieutenant General Ion Mihai Pacepa — the highest ranking intelligence officer to ever defect from Communist-controlled Romania – who claimed that by the mid-1970s, both the Cuban and Romanian foreign intelligence services worked jointly with the FARC.

Colombia’s FARC Rebels Suspend Peace Talks In Havana 2

Fox News Latino

Havana – Due to President Juan Manuel Santos’ refusal to agree to modify the constitution if a peace pact is struck, Colombia’s largest guerrilla army temporarily walked away Friday from peace talks with the government.

It is the first time either side has broken off negotiations that began last year in Havana, other than for planned recesses. But the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, stopped short of pulling out of the peace process entirely.

The move comes after Santos announced Thursday night that he was asking Congress to consider a bill that would let a public referendum on an eventual peace deal coincide with congressional or presidential elections next year. His proposal for the referendum falls short of the constitutional convention sought by the FARC. The government and rebels have long been at odds on the issue, and Santos’ decision prompted the rebels to call a time-out to regroup. “The FARC has decided to take a pause from the discussion table to focus exclusively on analyzing the reach of the government proposal, without detriment to the internal consultation it must perform as an organization,” the rebels said in a statement read to reporters by Jorge Torres Victoria, a high-ranking leader who goes by the nom de guerre Pablo Catatumbo.

The FARC did not say how long it would stay away from the negotiations. Humberto de la Calle, Santos’ lead negotiator at the Havana talks, said “the government remains at the table. … We hope (this pause) is brief.” Speaking at a public event in the northwestern department of Choco on Friday, Santos struck an optimistic tone. “It is perfectly legitimate and valid for (the FARC) to study this proposal,” the president said, “but time passes and the Colombian people’s patience has a limit, and we have to keep moving forward in the talks.”

However he later ordered his negotiating team to return to Bogota to evaluate the guerrillas’ move, and said they would resume talks “when we consider it appropriate.”
“It is not the FARC that decrees pauses and imposes conditions,” Santos said.

On Thursday he presented Congress with a bill to lift the prohibition on referendums being held in the same vote as presidential or congressional elections. Santos is expected to run for a second term in elections next May, and legislative elections are in March.

De la Calle said the aim of the referendum bill is to encourage increased participation by linking it to an election. “The government remains at the table. … We hope (this pause) is brief,” he said.

Santos ally Simón Gaviria of the Liberal Party said holding the referendum at the same time as a scheduled election would save the nation $93.6 million. He said he was not concerned by the FARC’s suspension of talks. “It seems to us that, without a doubt, this is a process of negotiation. … It does not worry us, nor do we think we have to take the FARC into consideration to make these changes (to electoral rules).”

Opposition lawmaker Iván Cepeda of the Alternative Democratic Pole party criticized Santos for apparently making the decision unilaterally without involving the FARC negotiators. “A decision of this nature pertaining to timing should be fully agreed to by both sides,” Cepeda said.

Formed in the 1960s, the FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army in the Western Hemisphere. Before Friday’s pause, talks were focused on the second item on a six-point agenda: the rebels’ political integration in a post-conflict Colombia. Earlier this year a preliminary accord was struck on the first item, agrarian reform, a key issue at the root of the decades-old armed conflict. “We have made much progress, I must reiterate that point,” Santos said. “The agreement we reached on the first point is a transcendental agreement. Nobody, or few, imagined we would reach a deal on that first point.”

Editor’s Note: For background on Cuban Intelligence influence over the FARC, see:

Does Castro Control Colombia’s FARC?

Cuba Dupes UPI; Uses Peace Talks to Hide Decades of Support to FARC Terrorists

Cuba’s Global Network of Terrorism, Intelligence, & Warfare

Foreign Minister: “The Point Here is That Capriles Doesn’t Respect the Rules of Democracy” 1

By Clodovaldo Hernandez – CiudadCCS

In the context of heightened tensions between Venezuela and neighboring Colombia, provoked by a meeting between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and opposition leader Henrique Capriles, Caracas daily CiudadCCS interviewed Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua.

Is Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos our “best friend” (as President Chavez once affirmed) or our worst enemy?

Elias Jaua: We are the best friends of the Colombian people and of peace in Colombia. Starting in August of 2010, with the Meeting of Santa Marta, we began building a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with President Santos. This relationship, however, was derailed last week when Santos chose to receive an opposition leader who fails to recognize Venezuela’s judicial, electoral, and executive powers, the same leader responsible for the post-election violence of April 15th that resulted in the death of 11 Venezuelans, citizens killed for defending the Bolivarian Revolution.

That is the point here. Anyone who doubts our position is invited to remember that in September 2012 President Santos met with then-candidate Henrique Capriles. At that time, we issued no formal complaint. At that time, Capriles was just another political actor within the confines of the democratic process. That is no longer the case. That’s what makes this a grave situation – the Colombian state has received someone who openly defies the Venezuelan state, who fails to recognize the rules of our democracy.

The opposition claims that our Revolutionary Government in Caracas has for years received opposition leaders of other nations. What makes this any different?

Elias Jaua: None of the people we’ve met with carry out their political struggle on the margins of legality, nor do they openly defy the institutions of the countries they represent.

This recent incident demonstrated that there are still many unresolved issues between Venezuela and Colombia. Isn’t it better to place all things on the table?

Elias Jaua: As President Maduro put it, paraphrasing President Chavez, Venezuela and Colombia are Siamese twins. We are the children of the same liberator, of Simon Bolivar, but we maintain two distinct frameworks for our development, two different visions of how society should be organized, and this will always be a source of some tension. But the basis of good relations is respect for the internal development of each country and the model each people chooses to implement. We can expect to understand one another, however, only if each of us stays out of the others’ internal affairs.

Some analysts believe Santos’ recent attitude is related to the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Bogota. Do you think that’s the case?

Elias Jaua: I don’t want to speculate on that issue. Only President Santos knows the reasons why he received the governor of Miranda (Capriles).

Here’s another question, in multiple-choice format. The Alliance of the Pacific is an organization that is: a) anti-Celac; b) anti-Unasur; c) antiALBA; d) anti-Mercosur; e) all of the above?

Elias Jaua: All countries have the right to organize themselves, to associate with one another based on their own national interests and perspectives. We have no objection to the Alliance of the Pacific. We have said, however, not in reference specifically to that agreement, but in general, that US Imperialism and the Latin American right-wing feel that with the physical departure of President Hugo Chavez the time has come to restore free trade, neo-liberalism, and all that they bring with them.

We, in contrast, are sure that they’re mistaken. We believe that the people of Latin America and the Caribbean still hold fresh in their memories the dark neo-liberal decades that brought instability, social exclusion, misery, and the privatization of fundamental human rights such as health and education. For us, that model is unviable in the Latin America and Caribbean of today.

Venezuela is the only country that voted against a recent resolution of the UN Human Rights Commission condemning the Syrian government. Why don’t allied nations, including powerful neighbors, take a similar stance?

Read the full story here: http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/9680

State Department: Havana Provides Safe Haven to US Fugitives 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuba is harboring and supporting U.S. fugitives but may be trying to distance itself from two dozen members of a Basque terrorist group who live on the island, according to the State Department’s annual Country Report on Terrorism released Thursday.

The report for 2012 is totally separate from the department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, which now includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan and subjects those nations to a special set of U.S. economic and other sanctions.

Advocates of keeping or removing Cuba from the list awaited the 2012 report with special interest because of media reports earlier this year, flatly denied by the State Department, that Secretary of State John Kerry would take Havana off the list.

The Cuba section of the 2012 report appeared to be similar to the section in 2011, with both noting that Havana authorities are continuing to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States and supporting them with housing, ration books and medical care.

One such fugitive is Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist” list since 2005. A Black Panther who was convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper, she escaped from prison in 1979 and turned up in Havana in 1984. The FBI hiked the reward offered for her capture to $2 million in April.

“There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups,” the 2012 report said, in wording almost exactly the same as in the 2011 report.

Both reports also noted “suggestions” that Havana has tried to distance itself from members of Spain’s Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA), classified by Washington as a terrorist group, who live in Cuba by “not providing services, including travel documents, to some of them.”

The 2012 version adds that two dozen ETA members are living in Cuba.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also classified as a terror group, received refuge in Cuba in past years, according to the latest version. The 2011 report noted that FARC members had received medical assistance. The FARC and Colombian government are currently holding peace talks in Havana.

Both reports also noted that the U.S. Financial Actions Task Force has identified Cuba as having “strategic … deficiencies” in the fight against terrorism financing and money laundering. The latest report adds that Cuba has now joined a regional body designed for that purpose.

Cuba has been on the separate U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982. Havana also is on a separate U.S. government list, with Venezuela and others, of countries that are not “cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts.”

To remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors, the White House is required to notify the U.S. Congress that Cuba has not engaged in terrorism for some time and promised not to do so again.

Today in History: Bogota Severed Ties After Cuban-Supported Overthrow Attempt Failed 1

March 24, 1981: Colombia expelled Cuba’s entire diplomatic staff and severed relations after Havana was forced to confirm its involvement in a failed government overthrow by the urban guerrilla group, the 19th of April Movement (M-19).

Several weeks earlier, M-19 had flown approximately 150 of its Cuban-trained members to Panama. Castro ally and senior Panama Defense Force (PDF) officer, General Manuel Noriega, along with other PDF members, armed the M-19 guerillas and sent them by boat to two locations on Colombia’s Pacific coast. However, the poorly planned operation failed and most of the invasion force was captured. During questioning, the captured guerrillas told Bogota of their three-month training regimen in Cuba and the means that Havana used to secretly return them to Colombia.